Arthur Frommer and his daughter Pauline spoke at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC this past weekend. They each gave a presentation about travel from their perspectives. Both focused on exploring alternative lodging — hostels, private homes and apartments.
Both the older and younger Frommer spent the bulk of their time discussing alternatives to staying in normal hotels when vacationing in order to save money. They also mentioned that changing the American paradigm of travel from a day here and a couple of days there to settling in one city for a week would also save valuable travel funds. In this day of higher airfares and low exchange rates, finding alternatives to the normal lodging options will save enough to make vacations affordable.
The Frommers are not the only ones preaching this approach. Vagabonding.com has written about staying in a private room in Paris. The New York Times noted that private homes were an option in the U.K. decades ago.
The organization that Frommer referred to most when discussing reservations at private homes was homeaway.com. He claims that this organization “boasts more than 75,000 properties in nearly 100 countries. The properties range from comfy condos to historic castles, expansive villas to basic bungalows and everything in between.”
Another option is to swap homes. Frommer mentioned this as a perfect way to basically eliminate housing costs when overseas. One traveler, Tom Kilroy, who lives in San Diego has parlayed his home into vacations in Paris, Amsterdam and Costa Rica according to SanDiego.com. “With a home exchange, all you really pay for is airfare; you cook your own meals, make your own coffee. When you have to pay two euros for a cup of coffee and you like three cups each morning, imagine how much you save. Your expenses are down to nothing.”
Frommer also mentioned hostels as an affordable place to stay for intrepid travelers. Many of us who traveled decades ago remember the youth hostels (or hostels) and the Youth Hostel Association. These kinds of large dormitory establishments with common showers and toilets still serve many younger travelers, however, the term hostel now also refers to more traditional hotel-like properties whose rooms have been reconfigured to hold four beds (two sets of bunk beds) that are rented out individually. The bathroom is then shared by only the occupants of the rooms rather than scores of travelers.
These days hostels come in all shorts configurations. Check out websites like hostelbookers.com, hostelworld.com or hostelz.com. Many of today’s guidebooks such as Rick Steves’, Rough Guides and Let’s Go have reviews of the hostels and the Web is filled with social networking sites like tripadvisor.com that often rate hostels as well as traditional hotels. These hostels are no longer exclusively for the young backpacking crowd.
Taking advantage of alternative lodging options can make a big enough difference in price to allow adventurous vacationers to choose between being able to enjoy big-city living or a nice villa in the countryside rather than being forced to engage in a, heaven forbid, “staycation.”
Given that choice, I’ll take Budapest, Paris, Seville or Tuscany.